In recent years, one of the most intense and passionate expressions of this rivalry is the frequent match-ups between the professional NHL hockey clubs based in each city – the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
|Eric Godard and Matt Greene fight during a game in Calgary.|
|Teams||Edmonton OilersCalgary Flames|
|Regular Season Record||107–90–18 (CGY)|
|Playoff Record||4-1 Edmonton|
The Oilers joined the NHL as one of the teams making the switch from the World Hockey Association in 1979. They were soon followed by the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary in 1980, making the question of who would reign as the top team in Alberta a hot topic. The Flames were the dominant squad in their inaugural season, finishing with 39 wins and 92 points and making it to the Stanley Cup semifinals. The following year the Oilers became the dominant franchise when the Oilers shot to the top of the Smythe Division and Wayne Gretzky started to shatter NHL records (including his own).
The rivalry was especially bitter in the second half of the 1980s. For much of this time, the Oilers and Flames were the two best teams in the Campbell Conference, and by some accounts in the entire league. One of the two teams represented the Campbell Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals for eight consecutive years from 1983 to 1990 (Oilers 6 times, Flames twice). During this time, the Oilers and Flames won each Stanley Cup between 1984 and 1990, with the exception of 1986, when the Flames lost to the Montreal Canadiens. The Oilers won five of those seven cups, a feat that has not been repeated since. They are recognized as the NHL's last dynasty, with lineups that featured legends like Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, and Mark Messier. The only time the Flames won the Stanley Cup during that period was in 1989, led by superstars Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski, and Mike Vernon. This was mainly due to the way the playoffs were structured for much of this time. The top four teams in each division made the playoffs, and the winners of the divisional rounds met in the conference finals. As the Flames and Oilers were both in the Smythe Division, this made it very likely they face each other in the first or second round rather than in the conference finals. That same system made it a near-certainty that the other two playoff qualifiers from the Smythe would have to get past either the Oilers or Flames – or both – to make the conference finals. Also, the Stanley Cup was awarded in the province from 1984 to 1988.
The Oilers defeated the Flames in the playoffs in 1983, 1984, 1988, and 1991, on their way to 2 of 5 Stanley Cups. The Flames defeated the Oilers in the 1986 NHL playoffs; game 7 was decided by rookie Oiler defenceman Steve Smith accidentally scoring on his own goal (credited to Perry Berezan), which ignited the rivalry to a new level. The Flames were favored in the 1988 playoffs, having won the Presidents' Trophy, but the Oilers swept the series and eventually went on to win the Cup. 1991 was the last year the teams met in the playoffs, when Esa Tikkanen led the underdog Oilers to victory in overtime with his third goal of the game and seventh goal of the series.
Due to the sheer talent and skill exhibited by both teams in the mid to late-1980s, Alberta was considered a "Death Valley" for teams coming to play on a road trip, especially those from the Wales Conference.
With the fortunes of both teams taking a slide during the 1990s, the rivalry cooled off. The passions ignited in the 1980s playoff sagas would make only brief appearances during the regular season. At this time, both franchises were facing financial hardships, since they were among the smallest markets in the league. Indeed, many experts were predicting the demise of all Canadian teams except the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. These fears were proved partially justified, as both the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets relocated to American cities, in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
It took well over a decade for either team to return to anything near the form they had exhibited in the 1980s. The Flames advanced to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, falling in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames became the first team in the modern era of the NHL to defeat all three division winners en route to the Stanley Cup final. The next Stanley Cup final, (played in 2006 due to the NHL lockout of 2005) saw the Edmonton Oilers fall in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers became the first 8th seed in NHL history to advance past the semifinals, let alone make it to the Stanley Cup final. However, the Oilers have not returned to the playoffs since then. The Flames would make the playoffs every year until 2009, but would then go six years without a playoff berth.
The 2009–10 NHL season marked the first time either team has won every game between the two, the Flames were 6-0 in regular season games against the Oilers. This wasn't the first time the season series was a lopsided affair. The Oilers defeated the Flames 7 times in the 1983–84 season series and 6 times in 1984–85 and 1985–86. The 2009–10 NHL season also marked the first-ever trade between the two rivals, with Steve Staios (then of Edmonton) and Aaron Johnson (then of Calgary) switching teams on March 3, 2010.